It’s easy to assume your toddler doesn’t like playing outdoors – or worse, after the period of staying at home and social distancing, they don’t want to play outdoors. We were very lucky to have a home with a large backyard and a Gigi that lives right across the street which allowed our toddlers to enjoy outside time. Even so, it was much harder to convince our nieces and nephews – who did not have the same privilege – to play outside. Here are a few of the activities and toys that helped us convince our toddlers to play outdoors:
Playing outside is more than just “getting fresh air” or “some sunlight” for toddlers, it’s about developing skills and anchoring themselves into the real world. Outdoor activities and playing outside promotes better sleep and physical health. It also supports STEM skills, invites new contexts for learning, and encourages social skills and collaboration.
Ensuring your toddler gets plenty of outside time each day helps you and your toddler use their energy learning, playing, and creating rather than attempting to find MORE activities indoors for them to channel their energy into.
It’s understandable that some toddlers need a little coercion to play outside and even so, they typically love it afterwards. Here are our favorite activities:
One of my absolute favorite activities and toys to use with my toddlers is the classic hula hoops or exercise hoops. We’re using some random ones found at WalMart in the picture above, but our favorites are a colorful set from Amazon that are around $15 for two last time I checked. It’s easy to think that they’re too young for hoops (my youngest is a little over one), but they don’t actually hula hoop – they use it for whatever they want to! Their little imaginations go wild.
Here are a few activities that my toddlers like to use these exercise hoops for:
They also love to just play with them! They like to run around holding them over their heads or using them as “windows” to look through at the rest of the world. It’s truly amazing the outdoor activities a toddler can come up with just with a simple hoop.
Water tables and toys are hard to introduce if you don’t have a designated area to both play with and store them. Luckily, they have tables of various sizes to suit the location that works best for you. These two tables were purchased with almost two years in between and are both in great condition. One of the reasons I love them so much is that they’re so easy to clean, and we typically throw the toys and accessories into the dishwasher when they start getting bad.
Water activity tables are an absolute favorite (once again) of my toddlers and my nieces and nephews of the same age group. These two stay at their grandma’s house since I don’t have the space for them. We try to make sure they get to play with them at least twice per week.
For my daughter’s first birthday, we decided to get one of those cute tents from target. This specifically was $70.00 but I chose it for the wooden poles vs. the typical plastic ones that bend easily. Amazon sells a similar one for almost half the price with little windows, but it’s a little shorter.
While we also play with our tent inside, it’s really useful when we want to encourage our toddlers to play outside but don’t want them directly in the sun. The tent gives them a shaded, cool clubhouse to play with their toys and get creative.
We like to rotate between bringing out the dolls, cars, or simply gathering the outdoor toys inside the tent to create a new play environment outside of the norm. This typically kickstarts their imagination and they’ll spend hours playing different games together – making this one of the most effective methods to convince your toddler to play outdoors.
Initially, I was very much against another ball pit. We had one gifted to Carson for his first birthday – and while he loved it – it was a huge mess in the house. Balls were everywhere. I changed my tune on my daughter’s first birthday when we had a BABY ball pit. It was much easier to clean up after thanks to the smaller amount of balls and less intricate pit. Now, it stays outside!
It’s turned into a place to hide, a thing to put on their heads, to try and fill up with water (and learn it doesn’t work out well), and to fill with other toys. For a thing that doesn’t take up much space and is easy to clean up, it’s a perfect way to convince your toddler to spend more time outdoors.
The absolute #1 recommendation for convincing your toddler to play outside is to turn outdoor activities into daily routines. Take a walk to the mailbox, play outside, walk your dog, ride a balance bike (my toddlers love them), or do one of the activities listed above. If you’re tired of the usual, check out local activities for toddlers and kids. We have a yearly membership to our local zoo and try to visit our kid’s museum at least once per month.
Toddlers are extremely imaginative and creative on their own, all you need to do is introduce the idea and space to them and let them explore! Share how you spend time outside with your toddler in the comments below!